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Ward Off Disease By Forming Healthy Habits Today

Ward Off Disease By Forming Healthy Habits Today

You can lower your risk of chronic illnesses by getting regular movement and making good food choices.

It’s estimated that 90 to 95 percent of cancers have their roots in environment and lifestyle, about 80 percent of people with diabetes are overweight or obese, more than 25 percent of deaths from heart disease, hypertension and stroke could be avoided, and between 33 to 90 percent of dementia cases are preventable.

Yet most people think they can get away with being overweight (more than 70 percent of US adults), having pre-diabetes or diabetes (more than half), fueling cancer with sedentary behavior (80 percent of US adults don’t meet minimum activity guidelines) and continuing to inject toxins into their body through tobacco, highly processed meats and lots of ultra-processed foods. And lifestyle treatments—reducing your exposure to toxins, mold or heavy metals—have disappointing results at reversing dementia once it starts. So, start doing preventive stuff today! It’s time to:

STOP. Take a break and take time to smell the healthy coffee. Consider picking up some healthy habits.

LOOK. There are wonderful opportunities all around you. Seize a healthy lifestyle habit (or three) and revel in the positive results. Discover how to move, de-stress, eat well and have a longer, healthier, happier life.

LISTEN. We’re offering you tips to launch you on the road to preventing disease instead of reacting to it.

Food is preventive medicine: KO cancer, dementia, diabetes and heart disease risks (not to mention wrinkles and a lousy sex life) by dodging added sugars, sat and trans fats, and any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole. Ditch “snake oil foods” that make claims about how they’ll make you sexier, stronger, more beautiful or more handsome—and chow down on 12 walnut halves and 7 to 9 servings of produce daily; use olive oil; and eat 10 ounces of salmon or ocean trout weekly.

A study in the journal Neurology found eating a Mediterranean diet is associated with a larger brain volume, more grey and white matter and better communication between neurons. And a recent Harvard study says one-third of premature deaths could be avoided by switching to a plant-based diet.

Develop devotion to motion: Every day find chances to move. Make sure you get an additional 30 or more minutes of activity (walking, swimming, cycling, yoga—you name it) five or more days a week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that will reduce your risk for many cancers, heart disease, mental distress, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, plus provide weight control and strengthen bones and muscles. Exercise seven hours a week and you’ll slash your risk of dying early by 50 percent compared to folks who get only 30 minutes or less activity weekly.

De-stress your distress: Find time to meditate, enjoy friends, sleep sufficiently, help others and do yoga. These activities will lower your chronic stress response and dispel the harmful effects of too much cortisol pumping throughout your vascular system. A chronic stress response can suppress immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems, causing them to stop working normally. Over time it contributes to the development of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other illnesses, as well as depression or anxiety. For your stress monitor, download Sharecare.com’s free app for iOS and Android to analyze the stress in your voice.

Find your fun: One study found the more enjoyable activities a person participated in, the healthier and happier they were. Writing in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers associated fun with lower blood pressure as well as reduced levels of total cortisol, smaller waist circumference and body mass index, less depression and better all-around physical function.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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